Rejoicing in the Joys of Others

Rejoicing in the joys of others is one of the four boundless thoughts found in all schools of Buddhism. In Sanskrit the term is Mudita, which is often translated as Altruistic Joy.  Altruistic Joy is the mind-state in which we rejoice in the joys and good fortune of others and pray for their joy and good fortune to increase.

This basic Buddhist practice is radical in its opposition to the accepted worldly practice of disparaging individuals or organizations that are successful or are doing good in the world.  Altruistic Joy is an antidote to the negativity that seems to be creeping into every waking hour of our lives through various media and technologies.

If we want to stand against this pervasive negativity we should all strive to practice Altruistic Joy. However, as Buddhist, rooted in an understanding of the emptiness of self, we must not allow the practice of Altruistic joy to become part of our “self building” project. It cannot be something we do so we will be holy or become a better person. Rather we must cultivate Altruistic Joy with the aim of minimizing suffering.  We cultivate Altruistic Joy because we have faith in the Buddha, faith in the teachings of the Buddha, and faith in the community of Buddhist practitioners and want to join them in building a world free of suffering and causes of suffering.

While there are many wonderful practices to help us cultivate Altruistic Joy, the simplest is the recitation of the Nembutsu: Namo Amida Bu.  It is simultaneously a statement of faith in the triple gem as well as prayer for an end to suffering for all beings everywhere.  It is a joyous shout with those who are experiencing joy and fortune. It is also a lament and prayer for those experiencing suffering and distress. Through the Nembutsu the Tathagata’s compassion is made manifest.    To recite the Nembutsu is to turn our ear away from the negativity of the world and listen instead to the calling of Amida Tathagata.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

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